It can be tough navigating the teenage years but The Beatles were right when they said ‘We get by with a little help from our friends’. Friends can make the tough times easier and the good times better. It’s really painful if your child doesn’t have a friend to help them through. Both for the them and for you, the parents, who feel your child’s pain and loneliness so greatly. We can feel lost as how best to help teenagers through the tough times.
Here are some things you can try to help teenagers when they feel lonely, friendless and all alone.
Let them feel
What parents wish they could do most of all, is to be able to magically fix their child’s friendship struggles. But of course, we can’t live our child’s lives for them and we have to find the best ways to help teenagers through difficult times. Try to give your child the space and the permission to express how they are feeling. Don’t dismiss their problems by saying things like “Don’t be silly, I’m sure loads of people want to be your friend”. Instead accept that they are feeling left out and lonely, and encourage them to share their feelings. Let them know that you are there for them and will do everything you can to support them.
Help them see their special gifts
Ask your child to reflect on and talk about the qualities they have that make them who they are and that would make people want to be their friend. Asking questions like these can reveal a lot about your child’s self-confidence and self-esteem. If they can’t name their defining qualities, list some for them. Once your child has identified their best qualities ask them how they can let people see who they really are. Would it help to make small steps to appear more open by smiling and making eye contact? Does the fact that they sit alone mean people don’t want to bother them? If so could they think of an easy way to take small steps to be more open? Slowly you can start to build your child’s awareness of their own special qualities as well as their self-confidence.
Teach the skills of conversation
If your child has suffered from being pushed out of a friendship group or has had attempts to make friends rebuffed, then they might have withdrawn themselves ever more. Shy and introverted children can also find it hard to know the best way to start to find a place in a classroom full of confident and extroverted people.
Small talk is a skill that we can learn. Parents can help teenagers practice how to start up a conversation and how to keep it going. You can teach strategies such as asking questions to start a chat and asking open-ended questions, which don’t demand just a one-word response. Help teenagers practice conversation by talking together about easy topics, such as the weather, music or homework. Model how to keep the conversation flowing by adding in detail to your responses as well as anecdotes and further questions.
Once they break through that initial barrier they’ll soon find they’re laughing and joking with their new friends.
Provide a close family support network
If teens have solid relationships in their lives and people they know they can count on unconditionally then it is much easier to endure the roller coaster of teenage friendships at school. Make doubly sure that your child spends time with and feels connected to you and other adults in their life – whether it is grandparents, uncles, aunts or family friends.
Also create as many opportunities as you can for your child to spend time with children their own age. Whether it’s siblings, cousins or family friends, they all help them feel that they belong to a community. Easy and familiar friendships can help boost your child’s self-esteem and self-confidence and feel accepted and valued for who they are.
If school is difficult in terms of friendships then it’s more important than ever to make sure your child has plenty of happy and easy times in company outside of school.
Enlist sibling support
If your teenager has siblings then talk to them about your child’s friendship struggles. Try and get them on board in helping you boost their confidence. Time spent with siblings can make a real difference to your teen and make them feel less lonely. Joining in with their sibling’s activities with friends, can teach them a lot about how to fit in to a social group and interact with friends. Even just talking to their sibling can really help your teenager open up. They can get some advice about how best to make friends and find their place in the world. Apart from anything else, siblings can make your child feel a whole lot better when they are feeling down just by giving them a big squeezy hug.
Encourage them to join a club
It’s often a daunting thought for a shy or lonely child to think about joining a new club or class. It will once again involve having to face a group of teenagers that they don’t know and that they fear won’t accept them. Encourage your child to give one a try. Remind them that it is often easier to interact with others when you do activities together in a group or in pairs and having something in common can be an easy springboard for conversations.
Encourage them to find a passion or hobby
Whether it’s learning how to play an instrument, learning how to sew, finding a sport that they are passionate about or exploring a love of reading, if your child can find and develop a hobby it can help them in times of loneliness. Your child might meet others online who share their passion or might find groups or day courses to attend, to meet others with the same interests. Even if they just throw their energy and focus into developing their hobby or passion at home on their own, it an be hugely empowering and build their self-confidence.
Borrow a doggy
Dogs make the perfect companions. They give a whole heap of unconditional love, the best snuggles and provide great company. A dog can offer comfort and companionship for your lonely teen. They are brilliant for sharing all your deepest thoughts with. They also have an uncanny ability to tune into human moods and provide enough snuggles to give comfort when their human friends need them most. If you’re not in the position to take on the responsibility of owning a dog then sign up to ‘Borrow my doggy’ to meet four legged friends that your child can meet and walk often.
Remind them they’re not alone
It can really help teenagers to know that they are not alone and that many other adolescents have been through the same thing. It might be hard now but that doesn’t mean it will be this way forever. There’s a whole big world out there and they will find friends, their place in the world and their own time to shine. If you can both believe in and hold onto that thought then it can get you through the more trying times.